How to Clean Your Dishwasher with Vinegar (The Right Way!)


When my family first switched from processed food to whole food, I started rethinking all of the products we used in our home. If you’re in the same boat today, you may be wondering if and how you can naturally (and inexpensively) clean your dishwasher with vinegar, without causing any damage. 

Yes, it’s true that vinegar can damage your dishwasher if you don’t use it correctly! Vinegar is so great at cleaning practically everything, but there are a few surface types and materials that you should avoid using vinegar on.

In the case of a dishwasher, it’s the rubber seals and gaskets that could break down over time when continuously exposed to vinegar, which may result in cracking or even leaks! Not only would that be a costly repair but you could end up with an unexpected slip and slide in the middle of your kitchen.

But you CAN wash your dishwasher with vinegar safely without damaging any rubber seals and gaskets. Let’s dive right into how to clean your dishwasher with vinegar the right way.

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How to clean dishwasher with vinegar pin

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How to safely use vinegar to clean your dishwasher

You can still use vinegar to clean your dishwasher. You just do NOT want to add it directly onto the interior of your dishwasher or put it in the soap dispenser. Instead, you want to use a container of some sort like a bowl to hold your vinegar in the dishwasher. But hold on – before you try out this vinegar method to clean your dishwasher, there are a couple of preliminary dishwasher cleaning steps you should take.

Step 1 – Clean the filter

Start with an empty dishwasher and remove the bottom rack. Locate and examine the drain. Do you see any food goop or blockages? Use a toothpick or a paper towel to pick up what you can.

If your filter is removable, remove it and rinse it out with hot soapy water to remove debris. You can use a toothbrush to give it a gentle scrub if needed. 

Reinsert your filter and bottom rack.

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Step 2 – Unclog interior parts

Check your dishwasher’s spray arm and drain hose for clogs or build-up. Use a scrub brush or toothpick to clear the passageways and ensure water can flow properly. 

Step 3 – Run the dishwasher with a cup of vinegar on the top rack

Pour 1 cup of undiluted white vinegar into a dishwasher-safe bowl and place it in the middle of the top rack of your dishwasher. You can add a few drops of grapefruit, lemon, orange, or even tea tree essential oil for a nice scent. 

Run your dishwasher (empty) on a quick wash. Choose the hottest water available to disinfect or select sanitize if you have the option. This will not only help wash away mineral build-up, grime, and soap scum but it will zap any lingering smells!

When the cycle is completed, wipe the interior dry and leave your dishwasher door open to air dry in case of any residual vinegar.

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Step 4 – Finishing touches

Wipe the outside, edges, and the seal of your dishwasher with your preferred homemade all-purpose cleaner and a cleaning cloth. It’s that simple to clean your dishwasher with vinegar the right way!

RELATED: Vinegar is so versatile! You can also make your own DIY veggie wash or produce spray with vinegar.

How often should I clean my dishwasher?

Dishwashers should be deep cleaned every 3–4 months.

Some alternatives to vinegar

You likely already have the ingredients that you need in your pantry to naturally clean your dishwasher! These other natural dishwasher cleaners do the job well without harsh chemicals and can be used in place of the white vinegar mentioned above.

  • Lemon Juice
    Fill a bowl with 1 cup of lemon juice and place it in the middle of the top rack before running a hot washing cycle.
  • Baking soda
    Sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher tub before running a hot washing cycle.
  • Unsweetened lemonade mix
    That’s right! The citric acid content in it will remove iron stains and lime build-up from inside a dishwasher. Simply place one pack (approx 6.5g) into the detergent tray of your dishwasher before running a hot washing cycle.

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For stubborn, older machines

Some older machines may need a little extra elbow grease to get all the grungy spots out. After running your cycle everything should be loosened up, allowing you to easily scrub away any visible spots that were left behind. 

That’s it! Rust spots, gone! Lime deposits, gone! Mildewy bits, gone! All with natural, non-toxic cleaners.


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